Brussels 10 November 2009 — Conservative MEP Sir Robert Atkins has said most EU governments are holding European taxpayers in contempt for failing to properly account for millions of their money. He said the European Commission should now ‘name and shame’ those countries failing to live up to their commitments.

Sir Robert’s call comes as the European Court of Auditors published their report on the 2008 Budget. The Report showed that once again the European Institutions’ improvements have enabled the court to give a clean opinion on the reliability of the 2008 accounts, and improvements had been made in agriculture, which had previously been one of the major areas of error. For the first time the court gave only a qualified opinion rather than an adverse one.

However the court is still highly critical of spending in the areas of ‘cohesion’ and ‘research, energy and transport’ as well as ‘development and enlargement’.

Sir Robert said that while the Commission should not forget its ultimate responsibility to manage these funds effectively, the finger of blame should largely be pointed at national governments, who are not putting in place necessary national controls on EU spending.

Around 80 percent of all EU monies are spent by national governments and agencies.

National governments entered into an agreement with the European Commission and MEPs during negotiations over the 2007-13 budget round, pledging to introduce a system of self-certification for the EU monies they spend. So far, only a handful of countries have done so - including the UK.

Sir Robert said:

“The European Commission has finally come up to an acceptable level in its own accounting procedures which now saves it from the annual embarrassment of being unable to get its accounts approved.

“For the first time we have seen welcome improvements in agriculture spending but once again it is the area of regional funding where the accounts fall short.

“Regional funding has been important to developing the economy across the EU but it must be accounted for. It falls on national governments to take greater responsibility for ensuring our money is not vulnerable to errors.

“EU governments know what they must do to quell the auditors’ concerns but are so far unwilling to do it. The failure to give this matter urgent attention shows contempt towards European taxpayers.

“Those governments failing to take responsibility for EU funds should be named and shamed.”

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